Are We Being Tracked By Plate Readers?

Governments all over the world are using all sorts of devices and tools to track people’s movements, with the excuse that they have to do it in order to protect citizens from terrorist attacks, or to be able to locate criminal suspects. In a word, they say that it’s for our own good. But, this is in fact a huge violation of our liberties, and data that is collected by surveillance cameras is often used for purposes that have nothing to do with national security or promoting citizens’ wellbeing. Invasion of privacy has been an issue in countries all over the world for a long time, with people being monitored in various ways, most of which the general public is not even aware of.

One such example of invasion of privacy was uncovered recently, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which commissioned a report on how data collected by automated license plate readers is used and how long it is being stored for. These license plate readers take digital photos of vehicle license plates, and are primarily intended to be used for locating car thieves and other criminals. But, the ACLU has reviewed thousands of documents from various local and state police departments, which reveal that the information that is being gathered through this surveillance technology is being stored for years, with no privacy protection whatsoever.

While photos that are taken by automated plate readers should be exclusively used for tracking drivers who have committed some sort of crime, such as a car theft, a DUI, or another traffic violation, the ACLU discovered that local and state authorities keep photos of license plates of drivers who have not committed any crime, and they keep them for 3, 4, or 5 years, or in some cases, indefinitely. What’s more, the majority of drivers whose license plates are photographed and whose movements are tracked, haven’t committed a crime. This is what’s bothering the ACLU, and what all citizens should be concerned about. Apart from license plates, these photographs contain information about the time and location where they were taken, which means police departments across the United States have precise information about citizens’ whereabouts at all times. This helps authorities learn and discover many things about people’s personal lives, and that is a major infringement on our civil liberties.

Most people don’t realize how serious this is and are not aware that basically, the government knows pretty much everything about our personal lives, such as when we leave our houses to go to work, where we go out to eat, what sort of leisure activities we do, what religious objects we go to, and many more aspects of our lives. As stated in the report released by the ACLU, this type of surveillance technology is the most widespread tracking technology that most Americans have never even heard of.

In conclusion, no matter how hard authorities try to convince us that the only purpose of this technology is to keep you safe, you have to be aware that it’s being used to gather information about everything you do and when you do it, which in essence means you are not as free as you think you are.

Author bio:

Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “safe driving” specialist. He is an author of many how-to articles related to  drivers documentation, traffic regulations, auto insurance etc. 

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